As with most of the seaside towns along the Kent coast, Ramsgate has been heralded as ‘up and coming’, the next big deal, the place where it’s all happening. On a drizzly, dark October night, I can’t say this is the impression I got. However, once we sat down at our table at Kyoto Sushi and Grill and started reading through the extensive menu, I began to think that maybe there was something about this town that was slightly ahead of the Kentish curve.
I love Japanese food. It’s something that I grew up eating and to this day my grandma and I still consider it a special treat to sit down over a plate of California rolls. Sushi and teriyaki were the mainstays of Japanese restaurants in the nineties and noughties, but there is obviously much more to it than that. The great thing about Kyoto Grill is they offer the obvious dishes, like teriyaki salmon bento boxes and chicken yakitori, dragon rolls and spicy tuna nigiri, but they also offer dishes like hamachi tataki (raw yellowtail fish) and jijimi (pan fried seafood and vegetable pancake) which the average Brit probably hasn’t seen before.
Every single item we ordered, and we ordered a lot, was spectacularly fresh, beautifully presented and incredibly delicious. The tori karaage was everything you want from fried chicken, although the meager dollop of wasabi mayonnaise that came with it wasn’t nearly enough for a mayo fiend like me! The jijimi was out of this world, with whole pieces of octopus and prawns in a batter flavored with dashi and covered in sweet Japanese mayonnaise.
The spider roll (soft shell crab) was beautifully crisp with silky avocado, spicy wasabi mayo, soft, sticky sushi rice and some bitter leaves just to set it all off. The unagi (barbecued eel) nigiri was like fish butter, flaking apart and melting in the mouth. The beef and hamachi tataki were both incredible. The beef was seared and dressed in soy and the hamachi was raw with a deliciously sweet-sour seaweed salad alongside. Some of you may feel a bit uneasy about eating raw fish, but in this case you shouldn’t and this is why: When I made the reservation the man on the phone (who I later worked out was the chef) asked whether we would be ordering hot or cold food. A bit confused, I said we would probably like to order both. He said that was no problem, he just wanted to know to gauge how much fish he would need to get at the fish market in London. Now, when the chef is making a 150 mile round trip to get me the freshest fish possible, I’d say that’s a safe bet!
I have often said that Japanese food is what I miss most about not living in California. Japanese food has a subtlety and elegance to it that you don’t find in many other cuisines, and it has a wonderful mix of comfort food stodge and healthy freshness. We sat for nearly three and a half hours sipping cold Asahi, chatting comfortably, and ordering little dish after little dish, each one just as mouth-watering as the last. And after three and a half hours, when the bill came we were pleasantly surprised. This is a restaurant you can go to for a comforting ramen bowl, a quick plate of California rolls, or a full on feast, and whichever you choose you’ll walk away happy and with your bank balance still in the black.
I can’t wait to go back and I can’t recommend highly enough that anyone within driving distance of Ramsgate goes and gives this place a try. It is a jewel of the Far East right here in the South East.